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SXSW Live Shot: Laura Cantrell

You can’t take Nashville out of this New Yorker

By Jim Caligiuri, 1:55PM, Fri. Mar. 14

SXSW Live Shot: Laura Cantrell
photo by John Anderson

Although New York-based, Laura Cantrell originated out of Nashville. She took time out recently to pursue motherhood, but this past January released No Way There from Here, her fifth album.

Cantrell’s Nashville upbringing shines through both on the arrangements of her songs, always straightforward, and their subject matter, harkening back to simpler times. In the past, she demonstrated an ear for quality song smithing, and No Way There from Here proves a leap forward.

At times during her performance Thursday night at Hilton Gardens, with aid from a trio led by the supremely talented Mark Spencer on guitar and lap slide, she possessed the rare combination of self-assured storytelling and righteous twang and jangle. Cantrell’s become the female Nick Lowe.

Like that crooner, she writes songs – like “All the Girls Are Complicated” and the album’s title track – that deal with relationships and unrequited love in mature ways. She showed off her roots by digging into her tribute to the Queen of Country Music on “Kitty Wells Dresses,” a sweet, modest number.

She even tried to satisfy some longtime fans in the audience, reaching back for the title song of her 2000 debut Not the Tremblin’ Kind. A never timid stage presence and strong compositional talents place Cantrell among today’s Americana stalwarts.

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